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The State We're In: Washington
A Civics Text by the League of Women Voters of Washington Education Fund

About Us >> Our Officers >> Our History

ABOUT US

WHAT IS THE LEAGUE

  • MISSION...The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
  • MEMBERSHIP...The League is open to any person who subscribes to the purpose and policy of the League. There are three types of membership:
    • Voting members who are citizens at least 18 years old and enrolled in recognized local Leagues.
    • Associate members who are all other members enrolled in local Leagues (i.e. those under voting age and non-citizens).
    • Members-at-Large (MALS) who are members residing outside the area of, and are therefore not enrolled in any local League.
    • There are over 90,000 members of the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS). There are Leagues in every state, Puerto Rico, Washington, DC. and the Virgin Islands.
  • ORGANIZATION...The structure of the League parallels the representative system of government under which we live. Our local, state and national governments are dependent one upon the other; the base is the individual citizen. The several League levels are also interdependent. Members determine the policies and program of all league levels. Membership is simultaneous on all three levels where applicable.
  • NONPARTISANSHIP...The League acts in support of, or in opposition to, selected governmental issues which its members have studied. It does not support or oppose candidates, factions or political parties. League members, as individuals, are urged to work in the political party of their choice. In order to protect the League's nonpartisanship policy, guidelines regarding the political activities of the Board of Directors are reviewed frequently.
  • FINANCING...The League is a non-profit organization financed by member dues and contributions, and through community and national finance drives which enable public-spirited citizens to help support the work of the League. Dues are collected at the local League level with Per Member Payment (PMP's) assessments made by National and State Leagues upon the local Leagues. A tax deductible LWV Education Fund can be used for publications and Voter Service information.

WHAT WE DO

  • VOTERS SERVICE/CITIZEN INFORMATION...Activity is directed toward encouraging citizens to register and vote and to participate in government and politics. The League does this by sponsoring debates and providing nonpartisan information about voting procedures, candidates and ballot issues. Voter Service projects are eligible for funding through LWV Education Fund.
  • STUDY...One of the reasons for the political effectiveness of the League is its reputation for thorough study. Complete facts, the pros and cons, are researched before consensus and action. Members study and discuss the issues in small units so that everyone has an opportunity to express an opinion.
  • ACTION...The League of Women Voters is an action group. However, it may take action only on issues which have been extensively studied and on which the members are agreed. When the League has a position on any issue, separate material is published to promote the League's stand. This is not funded by the Education Fund to ensure the distinction between League Action and Voters Service information.

    Action includes
    • providing information to members
    • and the public
    • building public opinion
    • supporting or opposing legislation

    Action methods include
    • lobbying
    • testifying at public hearings
    • use of public forums and the media
    • panel discussions
    • League publications
    • letters to public officials

    It is the responsibility of each League Board to direct and plan League Action which may include "calls for Action" to the membership.

YOU AS A MEMBER MAY

  • Elect officers and directors
  • Attend unit meetings
  • Volunteer for resource committees
  • Attend general meetings
  • Volunteer for service committees
  • Participate in program selection on all League levels
  • Help make the voice of the League heard

THE MEMBER

The League structure is designed to give members every chance to voice their views. Because League is a grassroots organization, every member is encouraged to become a member of a study or action committee. This is the key to League success.

THE PROGRAM

The League's program consists of governmental issues chosen by the members for concerted study and action. At program-making meetings the members discuss their ideas for local, state and national program. The proposals are submitted to the Board. Individual members may also submit proposals. The Board considers all proposals and then presents a recommended program for consideration at the annual meeting or convention. Final decision on state and national program is made by delegates to respective biennial conventions. The recommended program requires a majority vote for adoption. A non-recommended item may also be placed before the delegates; it usually requires a larger vote for adoption.

Criteria which must be considered when selecting program
  • The issue must be one on which governmental action is needed.
  • The issue must fall within the Principles of the League.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

At each level of League, Boards are elected by the membership to manage the activities of the League. There are usually five elected officers: President, two Vice Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer. The remainder of the Board (depending on the size of the League) is composed of a number of elected and appointed directors. Each member of the Board has a portfolio (a specific area of responsibility). - Study, Program, Voters Service, Finance, Membership, Legislative, Organization, Public Relations, Publications, Voter Registration, Observers.

STUDY COMMITTEES

Established to study a public issues of League concern, a study committee researches, clarifies, and develops a focus for League consideration. It then becomes a resource committee with responsibility to present facts to the members. In small Leagues the material is presented directly to the membership. In large Leagues where there are several units, the material is presented at a briefing session which is attended by representatives from each unit. They in turn present the material to the members of their unit.

OTHER COMMITTEES

There are also committees for other categories of League work (Voters Service, Membership, Budget, etc.). These committees carry out the balance of the League's work.

OBSERVER CORPS

The League maintains observers at meetings of various local, regional, state and national governmental bodies. Observers do not speak for the League but attend these meetings to listen, learn and to make factual reports of the proceedings. The League's reputation as a civic monitor has been earned by the Observer Corps of the local Leagues.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

Voters Service and results of League studies and League action are conveyed to the public via the printed and electronic media. Press conferences, public service announcements and programs on radio/television, educational material in the form of brochures and pamphlets, statements given to governmental bodies, speakers bureaus-and beyond this, the members' enthusiasm as they build community respect for League opinion; meeting friends, fellow employees, potential contributors-all are a part of the plans and techniques to promote the League's purpose.

PUBLICATIONS

The League has a large and growing list of educational publications on local, state and national issues. Highly respected, League publications are the result of thorough research.

PRINCIPLES

The League of Women Voters Believes...
  • in representative government and in the individual liberties established in the Constitution of the United States.
  • that democratic government depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens and requires that governmental bodies protect the citizen's right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.
  • that every citizen should be protected in the right to vote; that every person should have access to free public education which provides equal opportunity for all; and that no person or group should suffer legal, economic or administrative discrimination.
  • that efficient and economical government requires competent personnel, the clear assignment of responsibility, adequate financing and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government.
  • that responsible government should be responsive to the will of the people; that government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation, promote the conservation and development of natural resources in the public interest, share in the solution of economic and social problems which affect the general welfare, promote a sound economy and adopt domestic policies which facilitate the solution of international problems.
  • that cooperation with other nations is essential in the search for solutions to world problems, and that the development of international organization and international law is imperative in the promotion of world peace.
League Lingo
  • ACTION...the means used for stimulating interest in giving information and urging support of League positions: press conferences, lobbying, letters, etc.
  • BOARD...The Board of Directors
  • BRIEFING...meeting at which the resources committee briefs non-committee members.
  • CALL TO ACTION...request from a Board for specific action on a program item.
  • CONCURRENCE...agreeing with another League or Leagues' consensus.
  • CONSENSUS...substantial agreement of the members developed through study and discussion.
  • ILO...Inter-League Organization; a group of local Leagues who have joined to study and act on joint problems.
  • ITEM/ISSUE...any specific topic on the list of program; local, state or national.
  • LEGISLATIVE DAY...LWV day in Olympia - lobbying opportunity for all members.
  • LWVUS...the League of Women Voters of the United States
  • LWVWA...the League of Women Voters of Washington
  • MAL...Member-at-Large; a member who resides outside the area of a local League, and receives state and national publications.
  • NONPARTISAN...describes the League's political policy of neither supporting nor opposing political parties or candidates.
  • PMP...Per Member Payment; portion of member's dues which goes to support LWVUS and LWVWA.
  • PORTFOLIO...area of responsibility of each Board member.
  • POSITION/STAND...body of opinion expressed in the consensus upon which action can be taken.
  • PROVISIONAL LEAGUE...newly formed group working on limited program as it learns procedures and techniques and works toward becoming a local League.
  • TRY...They Represent You. Each local League publishes a yearly directory of public officials in their districts.
  • UAL...a group of Members-at-Large (MAL's) who meet together as a Unit-at-Large prior to becoming a Provisional League.
  • UNIT/COMMITTEE...small discussion group which meets regularly to discuss and act upon League program.
  • VOTER...newsletter issued by local and state Leagues in print or electronic format.

In The News:
Washington Public News Service